Massachusetts Historical Society

The Massachusetts Historical Society is a major historical archive specializing in early American, Massachusetts, and New England history. It is located at 1154 Boylston Street in Boston, Massachusetts and is the oldest historical society in the United States, having been established in 1791.

The Society's building was constructed in 1899 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.[1] In 2016, The Boston Landmarks Commission designated it a Boston Landmark.

Massachusetts Historical Society Building
Massachusetts Historical Society is located in Massachusetts
Massachusetts Historical Society
Massachusetts Historical Society is located in the US
Massachusetts Historical Society
Location1154 Boylston Street
Boston, Massachusetts
Coordinates42°20′47″N 71°5′26″W / 42.34639°N 71.09056°WCoordinates: 42°20′47″N 71°5′26″W / 42.34639°N 71.09056°W
ArchitectEdmund M. Wheelwright
Architectural styleColonial Revival
NRHP reference #66000770 [1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966
Designated NHLDecember 21, 1965


The Society was founded on January 24, 1791, by Reverend Jeremy Belknap to collect, preserve, and document items of American history. He and the nine other founding members donated family papers, books, and artifacts to the Society to form its initial collection. Its first manuscript was published in 1792, becoming the first historical society publication in the United States. The society incorporated in 1794; signatories included William Baylies, Jeremy Belknap, Alden Bradford, Peleg Coffin, Manasseh Cutler, John Davis, Daniel Davis, Aaron Dexter, John Eliot, Nathaniel Freeman, James Freeman, Thaddeus Mason Harris, Isaac Lothrop, George Richards Minot, John Mellen Jr., Thomas Pemberton, William Dandridge Peck, John Prince, Ezekiel Price, James Sullivan, David Sewall, Peter Thacher, William Tudor, Samuel Turell, Dudley Atkins Tyng, James Winthrop, Thomas Wallcut, Redford Webster, and William Wetmore.[2] Indeed, the Society claims to have been the only historical collection in the United States until establishment of the New-York Historical Society (1804) and the American Antiquarian Society (1812), after which time the Society's collecting activities began to focus primarily on Boston and New England. In 1849, Frances Manwaring Caulkins became the first woman elected to the society's membership.[3]

"The society, for several years after its organization, met in the attic of Faneuil Hall; afterwards rooms were occupied in Hamilton Place, and then in Franklin Street. In 1833 ... quarters on Tremont Street were occupied" in the building of the Provident bank through the 1890s.[4][5][6] The society's current building in the Back Bay was built in 1899; it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965 in recognition of the society's distinctive contribution to historic preservation.[7]


Today the Society continues to collect, preserve, and communicate historical information about Massachusetts and the United States. It is now organized in five departments: Library, Publications, Education and Public Programs, Research Programs, the Adams Family Papers, and Administration. Major collections include:

The Society continues to produce scholarly books, but now augments these publications with digital editions available through its website and other online resources. The Massachusetts Historical Review has been published annually since 1999.[8]

Notable fellows

The Fellows of the Massachusetts Historical Society are elected and serve as the Society's legal governing body.[9] Notable fellows include:[10]

See also



  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ The act of incorporation [1794]: with the additional acts and by-laws of the Massachusetts Historical Society : with a list of officers and resident members. Boston: printed for the Society, 1882.
  3. ^ Scanlon, Jennifer; Cosner, Shaaron (1996). American Women Historians, 1700s-1990s: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 37–. ISBN 978-0-313-29664-2.
  4. ^ King's handbook of Boston. 1881
  5. ^ City directory of Boston. 1848
  6. ^ Boston Almanac. 1894
  7. ^ "NHL nomination for Massachusetts Historical Society". National Park Service. Retrieved 2014-06-18.
  8. ^ "Massachusetts Historical Review". Massachusetts Historical Society. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  9. ^ Membership, Massachusetts Historical Society website, retrieved November 16, 2013.
  10. ^ Massachusetts Historical Society Annual Report, July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015
  11. ^ "This Month at the MHS". Massachusetts Historical Society website. Retrieved 4 January 2014. Larry Ruttman, Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society
  12. ^ Jonathan Sarna Elected Massachusetts Historical Society Fellow, Brandeis NOW, retrieved November 16, 2013


Further reading

  • A short account of the Massachusetts Historical Society: originally prepared by Charles Card Smith, together with the act of incorporation, additional acts and by-laws and a list of officers and members. January 1791-June 1918.
  • The act of incorporation: with the additional acts and by-laws of the Massachusetts Historical Society : with a list of officers and resident members. Boston: printed for the Society, 1882.
  • Thomas Boylston Adams. "Here We Have Lived: The Houses of the Massachusetts Historical Society." Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Third Series, Vol. 78 (1966)

External links

1808 in the United States

Events from the year 1808 in the United States.

Adams Papers Editorial Project

The Adams Papers Editorial Project is an ongoing endeavor by scholars at Massachusetts Historical Society to organize, transcribe and publish a wide range of manuscripts, diaries, letterbooks and politically and culturally important letters authored by and received by the family of Founding Father John Adams, his wife Abigail Adams and their descendants including John Quincy Adams. Over 27,000 records have been catalogued to date. Administrators of the database also track the location and content of Adams related materials at other scholarly institutions. By virtue of its collaborative nature, the project simultaneously sheds light on the lives of John Adams’ fellow Founding Fathers George Washington, John Jay, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.

Boylston Street

Boylston Street is the name of a major east-west thoroughfare in the city of Boston, Massachusetts. The road begins in Boston's Fenway neighborhood, runs through Back Bay, forms the southern border of the Boston Public Garden and Boston Common, and ends in Downtown Boston.

A different Boylston Street runs through Boston's western suburbs, Newton and Brookline.

Bucks of America

The Bucks of America was a Patriot Massachusetts Militia company, during the American Revolutionary War, that was composed of African-American soldiers. Few records survive about the unit, most of its history is constructed from eyewitness accounts. Also, no official military records exist or have survived, for the Bucks of America.

Charles Hudson (Massachusetts)

Charles Hudson (November 14, 1795 – May 4, 1881) was a United States minister, writer, historian and politician. Hudson served in both houses of the Massachusetts General Court, on the Massachusetts Governor's Council, and as United States Representative from Massachusetts.

Edmund Quincy (1703–1788)

Edmund Quincy IV (; 1703-1788) was a prominent Boston merchant during much of the 18th century.

Halifax Gazette

The Halifax Gazette was Canada's first newspaper, established on March 23, 1752, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was published weekly by John Bushell, who had been carrying out a project that had been initiated by his partner Bartholomew Green, Jr. The newspaper had been entirely dependent on the government for funding. After Bushell, Anthony Henry (Printer) became the publisher.

The Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston owns the only remaining copy of the first edition of Halifax Gazette.

Historical society

A historical society (sometimes also preservation society) is an organization dedicated to preserving, collecting, researching, and interpreting historical information or items. Originally, these societies were created as a way to help future generations understand their heritage.

Historical societies vary in specialization, with focuses ranging from specific geographical areas such as countries or towns, universities, railways, ethnic and religious groups, to genealogy, pioneer history, and the preservation of antiques or historic buildings.Often, many of these organizations ensure that historic architecture is preserved/restored and period houses are maintained for tours open to the public.

Jeffersonian architecture

Jeffersonian architecture is an American form of Neo-Classicism and/or Neo-Palladianism embodied in the architectural designs of U.S. President and polymath Thomas Jefferson, after whom it is named. These include his home (Monticello), his retreat (Poplar Forest), a college he founded (University of Virginia), and his designs for the homes of friends and political allies (notably Barboursville). Over a dozen private homes bearing his personal stamp still stand today. Jefferson's style was popular in the early American period at about the same time that the more mainstream Greek Revival architecture was also coming into vogue (1790s–1830s) with his assistance.

John Adams

John Adams (October 30 [O.S. October 19, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He served as the first vice president (1789–1797) and second president of the United States (1797–1801). He was a lawyer, diplomat, and leader of American independence from Great Britain. Adams was a dedicated diarist, and correspondent with his wife and advisor Abigail, recording important historical information on the era.

A political activist prior to the American Revolution, Adams was devoted to the right to counsel and presumption of innocence. He defied anti-British sentiment and successfully defended British soldiers against murder charges arising from the Boston Massacre. Adams was a Massachusetts delegate to the Continental Congress and became a principal leader of the Revolution. He assisted in drafting the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and was its foremost advocate in Congress. As a diplomat in Europe, he helped negotiate the peace treaty with Great Britain and secured vital governmental loans. Adams was the primary author of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, which influenced the United States' own constitution, as did his earlier Thoughts on Government.

Adams was elected to two terms as Vice President under George Washington. He was then elected President in 1796; during his single term, he encountered fierce criticism from the Jeffersonian Republicans and from some in his own Federalist Party, led by his rival Alexander Hamilton. Adams signed the controversial Alien and Sedition Acts and built up the army and navy in the undeclared "Quasi-War" with France. The main accomplishment of his presidency was a peaceful resolution of this conflict in the face of public anger and Hamilton's opposition. He was the first president to reside in the executive mansion now known as the White House.

Opposition from Federalists and accusations of despotism from Republicans led to Adams' re-election loss to his former friend Thomas Jefferson, and he retired to Massachusetts. He eventually resumed his friendship with Jefferson by initiating a correspondence that lasted fourteen years. He and his wife generated a family of politicians, diplomats, and historians now referred to as the Adams political family, which includes their son John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States. John Adams died on the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, hours after Jefferson's death. Surveys of historians and scholars have favorably ranked his administration.

Nahum Mitchell

Nahum Mitchell (February 12, 1769 – August 1, 1853) was a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts.

Born in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, Mitchell attended the local school.

He graduated from Harvard University in 1789.

He studied law in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

He was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

He served as member of the State house of representatives 1798-1802.

Mitchell was elected as a Federalist to the Eighth Congress (March 4, 1803 – March 3, 1805).

He was not a candidate for renomination.

He was again a member of the State house of representatives in 1809 and 1812.

He served as judge of the common pleas court 1811-1821 and chief justice 1819-1821.

He served in the State senate in 1813 and 1814.

He served as member of the Governor's council 1814-1820.

State treasurer of Massachusetts 1822-1827.

Librarian in 1835 and 1836 and treasurer 1839-1845 of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Mitchell's love for music began early, was leader of the church choir and a teacher of music in East Bridgewater. One of his pieces was performed in the World's Columbian Exposition concerts in Chicago in 1893. He was also one of the first American composers; his work sold more than 100,000 copies.

He died in Plymouth, Massachusetts, August 1, 1853.

He was interred in Old Central Street Cemetery, East Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

Prince Society

The Prince Society or Prince Society for Mutual Publication (1858-1944) in Boston, Massachusetts, published "rare works, in print or manuscript, relating to America." It was named after Thomas Prince, fifth pastor of Old South Church in Boston. Historian Samuel Gardner Drake founded the society because he "had not been made a member of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and he resented it." Officials of the Prince Society included William Sumner Appleton, John Ward Dean, Charles E. Goodspeed, Edmund F. Slafter, John Wingate Thornton, and William Henry Whitmore. It operated from offices in Bromfield Street (ca.1868) and Somerset Street (ca.1872, 1908). Around 1920 society members "realized at last that a publication society 'on the mutual principle' had become an anomaly in this day and generation." The society continued for several "years of poise before the final leap into the abyss" in 1944.

Redford Webster

Redford Webster (June 18, 1761 – August 31, 1833) was an apothecary, town official, and state legislator in Boston, Massachusetts. He was a founding member of the American Antiquarian Society, and helped establish the Boston Library Society, and the Massachusetts Historical Society. He was born in Salisbury, Massachusetts, in 1761 to Hannah Wainwright and shopkeeper Grant Webster. In Boston ca. 1787-1805 he worked as "druggist, medicine," from offices "three doors below the Drawbridge, Ann Street." He had trained "with Mr. Daniel Scott, a druggist or apothecary, at the sign of the Leopard, at the south part of the town, the business being subsequently removed to Union Street. On the death of Mr. Scott, young Webster formed a c-opartnership with his widow, under the firm-name of Scott & Webster, and afterward pursued the business in his own name."From 1792 Webster was active in the Massachusetts Historical Society, serving as one of the founding incorporators in 1794, and Cabinet-Keeper 1810-1833. He was treasurer and trustee of the Boston Library Society 1792-1829. In 1810 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He served as a Boston town official in the capacity of Overseer of the Poor ca.1810-ca.1821. Along with 27 others, he incorporated the American Antiquarian Society in 1812. Webster represented Boston in the Massachusetts General Court, 1831-1832.Around 1830, Chester Harding painted a portrait of Webster, now in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society. In 1787 he married Hannah White; children included the notorious John White Webster (1793–1850).

Rhode Island Historical Society

The Rhode Island Historical Society is a privately endowed membership organization, founded in 1822, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing the history of Rhode Island. Its offices are located in Providence, Rhode Island.

Spring Pond, Massachusetts

Spring Pond, United States, (formerly known as "Mineral Spring", "Mineral Pond" and the "little lake of Lynnmere") abuts the three cities of Lynn, Peabody (formerly Danvers) and Salem. In the center of these townships "is a beautiful pond". It is a secluded lake known by residents of the three cities and visitors who come to enjoy the camps, trails and natural environment of the woods. "It is in fact one of the most picturesque and romantic lakelets in Massachusetts". Stretching from Spring Pond to Marlborough Road in Salem, the pond and woods form a microcosm of beauty. On the edge of Spring Pond was once the Fay Farm, an English manor estate in New England. The mansion of Fay Farm was a well-known hotel in 1810, when the springs of these areas were believed to possess medicinal qualities. People visited the springs near Spring Pond to restore health, and worship the goddess Hygeia (Greek: health) and drink from the rusty iron-rich water trickling from the foot of a bank. Later, some traveled there solely for fun and frolic. The hotel was then converted into a private residence. The waters of Spring Pond are conveyed by springs from an aquifer lying below Spring Pond (and its surrounding area) through Peabody, Lynn and Salem. Spring Pond is listed as one of the "Massachusetts Great Ponds".

William Cameron Forbes

William Cameron Forbes (May 21, 1870 – December 24, 1959) was an American investment banker and diplomat. He served as Governor-General of the Philippines from 1909 to 1913 and Ambassador of the United States to Japan from 1930 to 1932.

He was the son of William Hathaway Forbes, president of the Bell Telephone Company, and wife Edith Emerson, a daughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson, nephew of James Grant Forbes and grandson of Francis Blackwell Forbes. After graduating from Harvard in 1892, he embarked on a business career, eventually becoming a partner in J. M. Forbes and Company.

William M. Fowler

William Morgan Fowler, Jr. (born July 25, 1944) is a professor of history at Northeastern University, Boston and an author. He served as Director of the Massachusetts Historical Society from 1998 through 2005.

William Stacy

William Stacy (February 15, 1734 – August 1802) was an officer of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, and a pioneer to the Ohio Country. Published histories describe Colonel William Stacy's involvement in a variety of events during the war, such as rallying the militia on a village common in Massachusetts, participating in the Siege of Boston, being captured by Loyalists and American Indians at the Cherry Valley massacre, narrowly escaping a death by burning at the stake, General George Washington's efforts to obtain Stacy's release from captivity, and Washington's gift of a gold snuff box to Stacy at the end of the war.

During Col. William Stacy's post-war life, he was a pioneer, helping to establish Marietta, Ohio as the first permanent American settlement of the new United States in the Northwest Territory. He was active in the Marietta pioneer community, and served as foreman of the first Grand Jury in the Northwest Territory, an event establishing the rule of law in the territory. At the age of 56, he ice skated thirty miles up a frozen river, warning two of his sons of a possible Indian attack, which occurred several days later as the Big Bottom massacre and marked the beginning of the Northwest Indian War.

William Stacy's surname has also been spelled as Stacey, Stacia, and Stacie; the correct spelling is Stacy. He is often referred to as Colonel Stacy, an abbreviation of his last rank of lieutenant colonel.

Winthrop Fleet

The Winthrop Fleet was a group of 11 ships led by John Winthrop out of a total of 16 funded by the Massachusetts Bay Company which together carried between 700 and 1,000 Puritans plus livestock and provisions from England to New England over the summer of 1630, during the first period of the Great Migration.

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